A Virginia man accused in an alleged bomb plot against the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty today to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, reports NBC4's Derrick Ward.
Amine El Khalifi could to receive 25 to 30 years, and will likely serve 85 percent of it, said a judge in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
El Khalifi will be sentenced Sept. 14.
He was arrested in February in a parking garage near the U.S. Capitol, wearing what he thought was an explosive-laden suicide vest. The vest, provided by undercover operatives, was actually inert.
A gun he planned to use to shoot his way past security in the building was also inoperable, prosecutors said.
"Amine El Khalifi sought to bring down the U.S. Capitol and kill as many people as possible," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said Friday. "He admitted today that he picked the targets, weapons, and means of the suicide attack while working with someone he believed was an Al Qaeda operative."
Court records show that El Khalifi, most recently of Alexandria, is a native of Morocco and had been living illegally in the United States for more than a decade.
Prosecutors said El Khalifi had revealed his intention to kill Americans to an undercover FBI operative he thought was a member of the al-Qaida terrorist group. He spoke of wanting to attack a synagogue and kill Army generals, prosecutors said, before settling on a plot to blow himself up inside the U.S. Capitol as an act of martyrdom. Officials have said the public was never in danger.
His public defenders did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday. In earlier court papers, El Khalifi's lawyers said they were exploring both the possibility of making plea deal or presenting an entrapment defense at trial.
However, prosecutors say in their own court filings it was El Khalifi who continually upgraded the plans, wanting bigger bombs and higher-profile targets. They say it was El Khalifi who brought up the idea of targeting the Capitol, after first setting his sights on a building in Alexandria.
El Khalifi could have faced life in prison if convicted at trial.